For a split second, all of the wrongs in the world that is LSU football were suddenly right.
Quarterback Danny Etling dropped back, and found a receiver in the corner of the end-zone for a touchdown pass as time expired.
As the officials convened, they ruled the score was good, and LSU had gotten a heroic, late-game victory over the vaunted Auburn Tigers – the ending to a sloppily played game between both teams.
But then reality set in.
None of it counted.
The whole sequence took place after the game had already been over.
And then it was back to real life – a world where the Tigers have two losses before the calendar is even flipped to October.
Auburn beat LSU 18-13 on Saturday after officials ruled that a late-game touchdown was nullified because the play started after the clock struck triple-zeroes.
After the game, Les Miles was distraught, but very few fans seemed willing to offer forgiveness.
The Tigers will enter October with a coach that is on arguably the hottest seat in college football.
“We felt like we did everything we could and our kids did everything that they could do to win a game,” Miles said. “I don’t know if I have ever come as close to winning a game as compared to finishing second as I did tonight.”
A lot of factors contributed to LSU’s demise.
In the first half, the Tigers’ offense was non-existent, running just more than 20 plays because of an inability to sustain drives on third down.
With the extra possessions, Auburn took the lead, securing three, first-half field goals from kicker Daniel Carlson to take a 9-7 lead into halftime.
“I think our defense was on the field too long,” Miles said. “We made some early drives, but couldn’t score many points on offense. If we could do that, then our offense would be fine.”
LSU’s lone offense in the half was a pass from Etling to Foster Moreau – the cap to a six-play, 75-yard drive in the first quarter.
In the second half, LSU started to move the ball, but continuously shot itself in the foot with untimely penalties or turnovers. After another Carlson field goal, Auburn upped its lead to 12-7.
“He’s a weapon,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said of his kicker. “He was a huge factor in the game.”
But LSU answered with two field goals of its own to go up 13-12 going into the fourth quarter.
Then things got a bit crazy.
Auburn got two more field goals in the quarter to go up 18-13, and LSU seemed poised to answer – twice.
But like the Tigers have done all season, they couldn’t finish the trick. One promising drive ended in Auburn territory after Etling dropped the football before handing it off to Leonard Fournette.
The other ended in flames as time expired – another Les Miles late-game clock management mishap.
The Tigers moved the ball from their own 25-yard-line to Auburn’s 28-yard-line in 1-minute and 23 seconds, leaving LSU 28 yards from the win with exactly 90 seconds to play and one timeout.
But a litany of communication errors and penalties caused the last-ditch effort to be nullified by replay officials who saw that Etling clearly received the snap from center after time had expired.
The play was run after the Tigers committed an illegal motion penalty on the down before, which stopped the clock with 1 second to play.
“They say you cannot start a play in less than two seconds,” Miles said. “But we see teams do it all the time.”
Etling was 15-of-27 for 118 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
Fournette had 101 yards, but rushed just 16 times.
Miles said the loss stings, but he’s not giving up on the team, citing an excitement to face Missouri next week.
The LSU faithful on social media didn’t seem quite as enthused on Saturday night – many calling for Miles’ dismissal.
“Take it one game at a time and work hard,” Miles said. “I look forward to playing in Tiger Stadium.”
Photo: LSU vs. Jacksonville State by Sean Gasser